Provided by Rainbow Chamber Silicon Valley
Our mission is to create a vibrant LGBTQ+ supportive business community through development, facilitation, promotion, and advocacy.
Established in 1999 to give exposure to the LGBTQ+ business community, the Rainbow Chamber of Commerce Silicon Valley’s membership includes leaders of local businesses, nonprofits, elected officials and corporations who come together to support each other, promote equality, educate, advocate, and give back to the community.
The group started as gay businesses owners realized they weren’t recognized or supported by other Chambers of Commerce, by government, or indeed, by the LGBTQ+ community at large. Like many other groups starting in that era, the Chamber struggled to develop a vision, attract members and gain standing in the larger community.
Early co-presidents Michael Lomonaco and Kate Frias remember the dedication of those first boards, who fundraised, hosted events and gave their own money to support the Chamber. “It was hard to keep it going, but about four or five years into it, suddenly everyone wanted to join,” Michael says. Events like the annual holiday luncheon at Maggiano’s and the August outdoor party at Michael’s home in Los Gatos were huge hits and brought in funds and new members.
Since the early years, the Rainbow Chamber has grown and extended its range of activities. We began with networking mixers, and in the last few years, often have partnered with other local organizations at these events. Our Ambassadors (decked in official sashes) meet and mix and make attendees feel welcome and included. We’ve often been told by other chambers who come to our events that we are the friendliest and most welcoming group they’ve met.
We support the LGBTQ+ community through fundraising and supporting local non-profits. And we have volunteered for wider community events, such as Campbell’s Oktoberfest and the American Cancer Association Relay for Life.
Milestone developments in our history include the 2011 and 2018 reboots of our original 2002 website and the 2011 creation of our E-newletter and Facebook page. In 2013 we published our first professional-style directory.
In 2013 we attended our first conference of the Western Business Alliance of LGBTQ+ chambers. We also became affiliates of the National LGBTQ Chamber, through which our members can become certified and gain access to bidding opportunities with companies and public utilities. Finally that year we joined the Windsor employee amicus brief in the Supreme Court Case United States versus Windsor, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.
In 2014 we participated in Superbowl 50 Business Connect. In 2016 we held our first annual Connect event, bringing our member businesses and corporate sponsors together with community members for a celebratory expo.
In 2018, we established our Celebrating Success in Business Awards. This annual luncheon has allowed us to recognize the amazing work of LGBTQ+ leaders, including lifetime achievement award winners Michael Lomonaco and Roark Clayton (past board presidents), and former County Supervisor Ken Yeager.
This year, 2020, has presented all LGBTQ+ organizations new challenges as the pandemic has caused economic devastation among our community, plus kept us from meeting in person. We know that the Chamber is more important than ever. We have pivoted to zoom board meetings and mixers. We are restructuring our meetings to include short talks by members on their area of expertise, and offering training webinars plus free newsletter ads and Facebook posts to members.
Through it all, we have strived to live up to what Michael Lomonaco said about our Chamber:
“I’m so proud to be part of the Chamber. I’ve always said that this is about making lasting relationships that are not just about business, but about a full and joyful life together. That’s the gift of this rare chamber!”